Tag Archives: happiness

Panyaden 12 Wise Habits 2015

Caga

by Neil Amas, Panyaden School Director

DSCF9031 Gifts for Sri Nehru School donated by Panyaden School parents, students and staff
Gifts for Sri Nehru School donated by Panyaden parents, students and staff

Caga (pronounced jaa-ka) means generosity. It is the quality of delighting in the act of giving, sharing or relinquishing and expecting nothing in return; it is when the love of giving becomes a virtue in itself. Caga is being generous not only with material things but also with your time, your energy, your forgiveness, and your willingness to be fair and just with other people. It is the opposite of selfishness, stinginess, being attached to me and my things, needs or views, and, as such, caga also means to give up those thoughts and habits.

Dana (giving or gift) is the external manifestation of the internal quality of caga. While giving can be done without generosity, such as in order to get something in return or for the promise of a future reward, dana that is motivated by caga is so much greater. Giving up the unwholesome thoughts that prevent generosity, such as meanness and unwillingness to forgive, are also qualities of caga. They are a ‘gift’ to ourselves.

In Buddhist teachings, caga is seen as the foundation of dhamma practice, a pre-condition for sila-samadhi-panya (the Noble Eightfold Path). A mind expanded by generosity is better able to generate the effort and motivation needed to take on the tribulations of life than one constricted by the narrow confines of ‘what do I get out of it?’. Caga is also one of the 5 attributes that must be cultivated if one is to enter the higher stages of dhamma practice (‘stream-entry’): sadda (conviction), sila (moral conduct), suta (learning), caga and panya (wisdom).

pasanno_a_dhamma_compassCaga can be developed in different ways and at different levels. Helping others and offering service are ways of stepping over the boundaries of me and mine which, when stretched, often make us feel uncomfortable or threatened (Ajahn Pasanno, A Dhamma Compass). Forgiveness is a further step, a higher form of dana, because it is more difficult to forgive than it is to give material things. The highest form of giving is dhammadana, or sharing the principles and practice of dhamma. Ajahn Chah reminded us that this is not something only reserved for monks and nuns: “It is enough to set good examples and follow the Precepts.” Like the vine which grows and is shaped by the nearest tree, children are more affected by their parents’ example than anything else. When we think of the people who have most positively influenced our lives, “it is not because of the kinds of cars they own or vacations they have taken but because they have been trustworthy, kind and patient with us. They’ve made us feel good, no matter how badly we feel about ourselves. This kind of giving is not beyond the capacity of anybody. Increasing well-being and decreasing dukkha (suffering) are gifts we can all give,” (Ajahn Pasanno, ibid).

DSCF0921 Panyaden student drawing with Rappaport School student in Bor Kaew, Sameong, part of our annual social contribution initiative

From an early age if children are praised and encouraged for freely giving to others, they grow up with a pleasant feeling associated with being generous. The idea that you gain happiness by giving things away does not come automatically to a young child’s mind, but with practice they will find that it is true. They will learn that when we give, we put ourselves in a position of wealth. A gift, no matter how small, is proof that you have more than enough. Caga helps build confidence in children because by being able to help other people we develop a sense of self-worth. Acts of generosity are an antidote to low self-esteem. They create a sense of openness in the mind which helps break down boundaries with others that otherwise would keep goodwill from spreading around. Caga can used as a catalyst for family togetherness because, as Ajahn Jayasaro notes, ’’few things enhance the sense of connection between family members as group acts of generosity” (Daughters & Sons).

The nature of the desire mind is that, even when we have enough, we feel there is always a lack of this or never enough of that, or we fear that something is going to get taken away from us. The ‘she’s got more than me, it’s not fair’ complaint of materialist competitive societies creates a confined, fearful world because there’s never enough, as opposed to the confident and trusting world we create through acts of generosity. As we practice caga, we realise that we can get by on less, and that there is a pleasure that comes with giving. This, it can be said, is a true sense of wealth.

lotus2 transparentPlease click here for the above article in Thai.

Panyaden 12 Wise Habits: Avihimsa

IMG_8449 Panyaden School wise habit, Avihimsa (not harming)

Avihimsa (pronounced awihingsa in Thai (อวิหิงสา)), is a Pali word which means not causing harm. It originates from the Sanskrit himsa, meaning injury or harm which, when a- is added, takes on the opposite meaning, non-harming (a-himsa). Not causing injury or harm has a broader meaning than simply not physically hurting a fellow human being or animal.

To practise avihimsa is not to say or do anything that creates suffering for oneself or for others and also not to say or do anything that creates or encourages the cause of suffering in oneself or others. This includes avoiding words or conduct which provoke negative thoughts or instigate harmful actions. For example, we might say something to a friend which, though not directly hurting them, may lead to angry thoughts and therefore creates negativity within that person’s mind.

Avihimsa relates particularly to the Buddha’s teaching on moral conduct. He taught about the benefits of ‘’right speech’’ and ‘’right action’’ and proposed an essential minimum of 5 moral precepts (sila) for lay people to follow:

  1. To abstain from killing any living creatures
  2. To abstain from stealing
  3. To abstain from sexual misconduct
  4. To abstain from false speech
  5. To abstain from intoxicants

These are not an empty formula dictated by tradition or religious scriptures, but rather a practical means to ensure one’s speech and actions harm neither others nor oneself. They are essential pre-conditions for the development of a peaceful mind (samadhi) and arising of wisdom (panya).

False speech is not only about whether we are telling the truth or lying. It is defined by the intention of one’s speech and whether that intention is against the best interest of the other person or is for personal interest or gain. A child who teases a classmate because she is ‘fat’ may claim she is only telling the truth and so is not breaking the sila. But if the child’s words cause the classmate to feel inferior and depressed, she is causing harm.

Grade students presenting examples of harmful things to avoid
Panyaden students presenting examples of harmful things and actions to avoid

We are teaching our students that avihimsa means not harming others with your actions, your speech and even your thoughts. Whether thinking badly of others or saying something mean to them out loud, we are creating harm. Thoughts of revenge make us unhappy. Gossiping about somebody else, even though they are not in the room, creates a negative mind and atmosphere for oneself and those present. We can use our children’s actions and reactions in the classroom and at home to teach them the negative impact of harming, and the positive impact of avihimsa, such as pointing out how bad an atmosphere is after someone has used hurtful words. Or we can reflect on how much more fun it is playing with friends when there is no teasing or name-calling. We need to help children see negative thoughts as they arise and redirect them to something positive, to encourage them to see the good aspects of others instead of getting caught up in ill-will or resentment. This is using the Wise Habit yoniso-manasikara, or applying the mind skilfully.

Avihimsa means neither physically nor mentally hurting humans, animals and nature. From killing ants to polluting rivers. We want to help our children understand that harming others is unwise, not because it is a ’sin’ or breaks a ‘rule’, but because of the very direct consequences such actions, words and thoughts have on us as well as others. Practising avihimsa creates a community based on trust and good intention, one which knows how to forgive instead of blame. Moreover, making it a habit in daily life will help us to reduce our own negative thoughts, making our lives lighter and increasing happiness.

lotus2 transparentClick here for the Thai version of the above article.